Tips and Tricks for Building an Aquarium
Building an aquarium can be a fun experience for the whole family, but if you’re inexperienced it can quickly become difficult.
Freshwater aquariums are by far the most popular way to keep ornamental fish. A medium-sized aquarium holds 10 to 30 gallons of water and is recommended as a good starting point for new hobbyists. These tanks are cheap and easy to handle. A brand-new 20-gallon complete setup usually runs between $100 and $150. For the most part, “bargain” 10-gallon packages usually aren’t bargains, since the components are rarely high quality.
Once you buy the tank, you need to decide where to put it. Keep in mind that a gallon of water weighs about eight pounds, so a 20-gallon aquarium with filter, hood, rocks, gravel, plants and fish can weigh close to a backbreaking 200 pounds.
Tanks now come in two basic types: glass or acrylic. Glass tanks are usually cheaper but they are heavy and can crack and break more easily than acrylic tanks. Acrylic tanks scratch easily and can look pretty beat up if you’re not careful with your tank cleanings. Still, you don’t have to worry about cracks and breakage.
Often aquarium shops offer beginners’ deals that include the tank, filters, lights, heater, and gravel. These can be good deals but very often you will find that once you’ve got your tank going, you may want some different accessories. It’s also worth checking out the price if you get the accessories individually. It may be a little more expensive but you may get better products.
Building an Aquarium: How to Keep Things Running Smoothly
In order for the biological filter that you include while building your aquarium to function properly, several things must occur. There must be ammonia present. The aquarium must have enough surface area for bacteria to live on. There must be enough oxygen in the water. And, water must flow through these bacterial colonies adequately.
One of the most common mistakes made by new hobbyists is adding too many fish too soon after setting up their aquarium. The causes ammonia levels to become excessively elevated, and after a few days or a week, all the fish die. This is called “new tank syndrome.” What these hobbyists have failed to do is allow their tank to cycle.
When fish are first introduced into a new aquarium, there are very few bacteria present to remove ammonia. Consequently, the ammonia builds up to high concentrations that will kill most fish. After some time, enough ammonia-oxidizing bacteria are present to convert the ammonia into nitrite. The ammonia levels drop and the nitrite levels rise. Soon, nitrite levels become toxic, until the nitrite-oxidizing bacteria are present in high enough numbers to convert the nitrite into nitrate. It generally takes 3 to 8 weeks for enough bacteria to grow on the biofilter and in the tank before more fish can be added.
When setting up your aquarium, keep in mind the type of environment you want to create. You may want an aquarium that is peaceful and relaxing to watch, or you may prefer fish that are more active and aggressive. You may want to limit yourself to one species of fish, or have a breeding program in mind. Get an idea of what works best for you by considering some of the following options.
A community tank is an environment that allows different species of fish to occupy different levels of the aquarium. For example, you will want a few bottom dwellers that live down on the gravel, swimming or schooling fish that will live in the middle of the tank, and perhaps a few surface feeders. This type of tank is the most common because it allows for the addition of a larger number of species. Because these tanks have more peaceful fish living together, it is usually a very relaxing to watch.
A species tank limits the hobbyist to a few fish that are representative of one species. The aquarium will need to be set up so the particular species of fish you choose will be most at home in a tank that represents its natural environment. You may need a tank that has a lot of rocky outcroppings and hiding places, or you may need a heavily planted area. It depends on the particular fish of your interest.
When you’re building your aquarium, once you figure out the type you want, you can look for a store to buy your fish from. There’s a few steps you should take in order to make sure your aquarium is successful.
- Find a reputable store. This is the first and most important step to having healthy fish. Make sure that there are no dead fish floating around in the tanks; a good store will remove them immediately. Never, ever buy fish from a tank that contains sick fish or fish that have ich (small white spots). Finally, make sure the staff knows what they’re doing. Ask specific questions, such as what the nitrogen cycle is, how big a certain fish will grow and what temperature is ideal for a species. If they don’t know the answers, they should not be trusted to supply your future pets.
- Watch out for “starter kits” sold at pet stores. They often include components that are low-quality or that you don’t need. It is better to select high-quality items. They may cost more, but you will be better off in the long run.
- Buy water-testing kits. You should buy kits that test your water for the presence of ammonia, nitrate and nitrite, since significant concentrations of these substances can be lethal. A pH test kit is also preferable, although not essential. Most of these kits are relatively inexpensive.
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